Tell us more about your visit to Bangladesh – what are the Outstanding Learner Awards?
My visit to Bangladesh was a very special one indeed! We celebrated the achievements of students from over 20 schools across the country who performed exceptionally well in their Cambridge examinations at a grand ceremony—Outstanding Cambridge Learner Awards.
The Outstanding Cambridge Learner Awards are a group of awards issued by Cambridge International Examinations. They recognise exceptional learner achievement in Cambridge examinations around the world. The primary purpose of these awards is to celebrate and recognise the success of high-performing Cambridge learners. All Cambridge International Examinations students are eligible for our prestigious 'Top in the World' award. In those countries where Cambridge examinations are taken by more students a wider range of awards are available, including 'Top in Country', 'Best Across' subjects such as Maths, Chemistry and Economics and 'High Achievement'.
What is the overall philosophy of Cambridge in its approach to education?
Our aim is support students' study through a syllabus that is international in outlook, but local in relevance and which gives them the skills they need to get in to university and get on in life beyond formal education.
What students must above all take with them as they move on from school is fundamental understanding and skills, an informed curiosity and a lasting passion for learning. This approach guides all of our syllabus development.
Why are more schools choosing to offer international programmes for their students?
The desire to learn by looking beyond our own society is now more evident than ever, with millions of young people around the globe striving to maximise their potential through education with international characteristics.
For many, that involves gaining globally recognised qualifications, or spending time outside their home country for part of their education. The worldwide growth in international education in the first part of this century illustrates this.
How does Cambridge International Examinations support schools in implementing effective teaching practices?
Supporting students develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in university and life, is only possible with good teachers, teachers who are well supported and understand the Cambridge curriculum.
Our comprehensive professional development programme gives teachers delivering our programmes the best preparation to help their students do well. We recognise that teaching is about developing the skills and abilities of every child, not just exam grades.
We hold face-to-face training events in Bangladesh every year, including workshops led by Cambridge trainers. We conduct over 1200 training events every year around the world to provide teachers with the skills and knowledge they need to help their students succeed. We also offer online training courses.
We are also investing heavily in our Teacher Support site. A priority over the next two years is to make this site a single sign-on, one-stop shop, for teachers and school leaders. The re-developed site will offer a range of services, including an online community and access to free and paid-for personalised content and professional development opportunities.
We also offer Cambridge Professional Development qualifications for teachers which help develop teachers’ thinking and practice, and build the knowledge and skills they need to help students succeed. We have recently redeveloped our professional development qualifications which cover areas such as Teaching with Digital Technologies, Teaching Bilingual Learners and Educational Leadership. The qualifications are accredited by UCL Institute of Education – one of the world’s top universities for education – which means that institutions around the world can recognise how the qualifications relate to local requirements. Schools can develop their Cambridge PDQ programme to suit their local needs, giving their teachers access to quality accredited professional development.
As well as getting support from Cambridge, we should not underestimate the value schools place on the support they get from one another. We are therefore planning to roll out Cambridge school communities and associations for schools in regions where we work. We have already piloted this approach in China. These communities will provide schools with the opportunity to share best practice and support one another in the successful implementation of Cambridge programmes.
What are your future plans (for Bangladesh and abroad)?
We will continue to focus on helping our schools worldwide to improve. This means continuing to revise our programmes to reflect developments in education, enhancing our professional development and developing new support services.
We are also becoming increasingly innovative in how we use technology. In October 2016 we will introduce on-screen Cambridge Secondary 1 Checkpoint tests in English and Science for lower secondary students. The on-screen tests will be available as alternatives to the paper-based versions, and schools can choose the format that best suits their needs.
The experience we gain with these on screen tests, and above all the feedback we receive from our schools, will help us as we prepare for the arrival of optional on screen tests for other Cambridge programmes. We are building a network of schools to run trials of on-screen tests before we roll them out to the wider school community.
We introduced Cambridge O Level Global Perspectives for first teaching in September 2015 and the first examination will be in June 2018. This is the newest addition to our Cambridge Global Perspectives suite of qualifications. This development will allow our Cambridge schools in Bangladesh to offer a skills-based programme that encourages students to think critically and analytically about a range of global issues. It is based on the Cambridge approach to active learning. (NB. We won't know take-up in Bangladesh until schools make entries).
We are revising our International AS & A Level syllabuses in consultation with some of the world's leading universities – including the University of Cambridge, Harvard and MIT. This is part of our continuous review programme of Cambridge qualifications to keep them up-to-date.
They told us that what really helps students succeed at university is a firm grasp of the subject's key concepts. These are the ideas that help to develop a deep understanding of subjects, help students make links more easily between topics and enable them to solve problems or understand new aspects of their subject.
Our revised International AS & A Level syllabuses, and support materials, emphasise key concepts. They enable students to gain a greater depth as well as breadth of subject knowledge, an understanding of how subject content links to real-world research and development and a fluency when it comes to talking about their subject and how the different topics link together.
We are continuing to expand our regional teams around the world to bring us closer to schools and help us understand local needs. This expansion is driven by the increased demand for international curricula from parents and governments.
How has the feedback been from parents in Bangladesh regarding the courses offered by Cambridge International Examinations?
We have received an encouraging response from schools across Bangladesh. We have seen a steady growth in demand for our qualifications – both core subjects and new subjects.
Cambridge curriculum inculcates creative thinking ability and the ability to implement knowledge they gain during the course of education to life beyond school. Additionally, Cambridge qualifications facilitates access to the world’s best universities, opening up global opportunities for their children. Parents recognise the advantages their children receive and have been very supportive of our curriculum.